Feeding Our Purpose …


Purpose - 3 Hungers JPEG - Morguefile.com

Quotation Source:  Richard Leider (The Power of Purpose: Find Meaning, Live Longer, Better. p. 45)

The above quote is from one of Leider’s older books, which I thought would be a good place to start my personal exploration of purpose.  I am engaged in several projects right now that have to do with discerning and living out what we are meant to be and I am having a blast revisiting some tools and strategies I first learned decades ago, while reading up on the more current thinking around how we discern what we are here to do.

I find Leider’s statement useful, because it incorporate three basic concerns for anyone who senses that there is more to life and work than simply making money.

THE POWER OF CHOICE …

In a world where we often experience the effects of someone else’s decisions or something else’s action, remembering that we have the power to choose can be difficult.

A greedy CEO takes action to protect his personal wealth and a company fails, with resultant job losses and turmoil.

Mother Nature reacts to global behavior and floods somewhere, while somewhere else experiences a massive drought, and severe weather seems to have become the norm for many, with property damage, loss of life, and economic upheaval following.

However, as anyone who has read Viktor E. Frankl knows:

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” 

The freedom to choose is an important element in our lives.

OUR UNIQUENESS …

We might now feel all that unique these days, as mass media continues to communicate how we ought to feel, think, and behave with shot-gun blasts of generalized messages in various forms.

The sheer weight of completing with 7.4 BILLION other people probably daunts many, which may be why so many of us seem unaware of all our neighbors and co-inhabitants of this planet.  

Our neighbors may be familiar to us in many ways.  They may resemble you physically, and we all share the same general range of emotions, values, beliefs, and attitudes.  Many of us have engaged in the same type of work as others, sometimes to the point of feeling lost in a gigantic stream of monochromatic “worker bees“.

Parents loves their children in a very universal way and the differences are usually superficial cultural, ethnic, or religious ones.

But nobody else is YOU… your unique combination of all of the above, plus your individual experiences in families, communities, and work environments … plus that “choice” thingie.   Even if your life is completely and totally the same as another, you have the ability to choose a different path.

MEANINGFUL USEFULNESS …

As I am finding out, Leider and others who try to help us lead more purposeful lives, have a mantra that is repeated time and again … Knowing your purpose is nothing unless you act to actually engage in your purpose.

I do not have the link, but I remember reading about research that indicates that people who learn their purpose, but do not fulfill it, are actually less happy than those who do not engage in discerning what they were made to do, and definitely less happy than those who discern and then act.

“You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it.”

So says Marlon Brando‘s sad protagonist in the Oscar-winning 1954 film On The Waterfront.  If you only know of Brando’s more recent bloated and sinister acting, take a few hours to watch some  gut-wrenching acting.

We strive for purpose, because purpose creates a sense of meaning in our lives … if we then act on what we learn.  As I currently understand the journey to purpose, here is what purpose is not:

Purpose is not our work, although what we do for a living may reflect our purpose.

Purpose is also not what we enjoy doing, although we may enjoy living out our purpose.

Purpose is not our life goals, although our life goals may involve our purpose. 

Much more coming about this journey to purpose, but meanwhile:

How have you discerned your purpose in life?

How have you acted out your purpose?

What difference has this made for you?

Trying hard to consciously choose my best path and walk it with courage in the Heartland ….

John 

Image:  Morguefile.com/Meditation

 

Still Waiting (Part I) …


ConvairCar Model 118 by Source. Licensed under Fair use via WikipediaWhen I was a tender youth, I read voraciously … Life, Look, Reader’s Digest, National Geographic, Boy’s Life, Saturday Evening Post, Popular Science, Mad Magazine AND Cracked … you know, all the classics.

I had an insatiable appetite for information and the written word, whether a novel about man’s existence or a magazine article about the future.  This trait has persisted and stands me in good stead today, even if it does tend to clog my email account a bit.

I was promised flying cars …

Back in 1957 or so, I distinctly remember an image that caught my attention.  It was a picture of a typical suburban street, with cookie-cutter houses, pavement everywhere, and shining sun above.  For this isolated farmboy stuck at the edge of the world in rural MIssouri, this looked fantastic.  I could not wait to be in that world.

What really got my attention was the artist’s carefully rendered depiction of a car in the driveway.  Not just any car, mind you, but a car with wings!  

My life had no context regarding cars with wings, since at this point, airplanes were still pretty exotic items and usually glimpsed as they flew high and majestic over our farm, above me standing far below with mouth agape, in and out of my life in a few short, but exciting seconds.   At that time, the Air Force base outside Kirksville was still a going concern and the rare appearance of an actual military bomber flying lower than I dared hope to soar loudly and ominously over the barn was a time of near hysteria.  I became adept at playing out a mini-wargame whenever one of these mysterious crafts appeared.  On the days that I noticed or heard them coming, I was ecstatic, because this gave me precious extra moments to act out my boyish fantasies.

About that car with the wings …

This was the promise of the future, along with a bunch of other predictions about work-saving appliances, portable communications, and easy living, most of which meant nothing to me at the time.  However, a car with wings was something to be excited about.

This is what we do as young people.  We grow into the world and try to make sense of it.  As we grow and expand our base of knowledge, we let loose of some interesting but fanciful conceptions and incorporate a widening circle of experience and knowledge.  At least, that is how it is supposed to work.

Another concept I was exposed to early in life was the idea of work …

I was less excited about this concept, since work on a farm means physical labor that never really ends, but only shifts focus and location, as weather and seasons come and go.  Work on the farm consumed much of the day and much of the energy of my parents.   While I knew other people had different jobs, I did not think much in terms of those other jobs … partly because I had little direct knowledge of them and also because I did not understand that “town jobs” like teacher, storekeeper, policeman, gas station operator, or druggist were options for me.

I also learned that you worked for many years, until a magical time called “retirement” when you could stop working.   This was also unclear to me, since all the farmers I knew continued to work hard, regardless of their age.  Retirement was more attached to the afore-mentioned “town jobs” than to my reality.

I have to admit that this retirement sounded pretty good, although the whole idea of what you actually did do every day when retired was rather vague.  Fishing was mentioned and I eventually learned that retirement appeared to include drinking coffee at the restaurant during the work day, sitting on the town square observing commerce, and hanging out with other people of a certain age.  At least that is what the men did … I have no clue what retired women did, or even if such existed.  I guess I just assumed women kept doing what I saw them doing most of the time … cooking, laundry, and taking care of children.

I grew up in a different time … and I am still waiting for those flying cars.

More importantly, I also grew up, as did many others, with some clear expectations for how things would go.  Those expectations were based on what I saw, what I was told, and how things had gone in the past.

Life goes on and the boy ends up in a far different world than expected … stay tuned for Part 2, where I analyze some expectations and find them wanting.  Then in Part 3, I will share what I believe we are now learning about how life will go for us.

Feeling full of purpose and sort of excited about things in the Heartland ….

John 

Inspiration:  Life Reimagined (Leider and Webber, 2013)

Image:  “ConvairCar Model 118” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia

Magical Time of Year? …


2015New Year’s is truly magical …

For many of us, this represents our fresh start, new beginning, “do-over”, or, best of all, the year we finally do It (whatever “It” might be) …

Well, the statistics about new year’s resolutions are not promising, with measured failure rates from the high eighties to the low nineties Here’s one or two more studies that reinforce the low success rate for resolutions starting January 1.   The general blogosphere and other media overflow this time of year with discussions of why this is and how to be one of the 8% who stick to it.

So why do leaders still get all energetic about changing and growing around this time of year?  Simply because we know we need to change ourselves in order to lead others through ongoing change. 

We plan for renewed strategic visions, impactful tactical initiatives,“Wow-level” or viral press releases, and increased sales/retention/reach.  We want to succeed … Sometimes to ourselves and sometimes to others, we think or say things like:

This is the year I will finally become the leader I want to be.”

That’s it.  Only innovative and productive ideas will be entertained from now on.”

I pledge to become more available to those who depend on me effective on the first business day of the new year.”

We must cut costs and increase revenue.”

We need to go “all-in” on the new product/service and make it work.”

I plan to renounce arriving early and working late as a sign of leadership and a model for others.”

Not a bad thought here and I could add more things I have either said, thought, or heard from others.  The problem is not what we want to do or how we want to change.

THE PROBLEM:

Tying our leadershipdevelopment to a date or a time period creates an artificial environment, where early stumbles or fails make us feel discouraged without a real need.

Placing the emphasis on starting out on a particular date, without a reason other than tradition or wishful thinking, has a low success rate as noted above.  New Year’s Resolutions do not seem valid reasons to start or change simply because of a calendar date. 

THE BOTTOM LINE:

 

If you find yourself often waiting for an artificial start time to make your changes … stop waiting.

If you think that a new year in and of itself has a magical or emotional power … look to yourself for the magic.

If you really want to Make A Difference … start when you feel that need in yourself.

Work toward your personal goals continuously, take daily steps to improve your relationships with those you serve, increase your positive influence on others, and generally make your world, both at work and at home, a better place.

Resolution of Resolutions Scale:

Note:  All of this requires honest and objective evaluation of where you really fall on the Resolution of Resolutions scale (copyrighted by Me and totally unscientific).  Simply honestly answer the  one-question survey below (No time limit, no working in groups or cheating): 

The Question:  How do you HONESTLY score on a 5 point scale for accomplishing what you set out to do?

Here’s a hand scoring chart for point values with guidance:

1 – Every blessed time or real close to It

2 – Often enough to brag about It

3 – Middlin’ often, I reckon

4 – When I really, really want to do it and really, really try to do it

5 – I see Goal-Setting as more of an intellectual exercise

The lower the score, the more ready you are to take advantage of New Year’s Resolutions, your work anniversary, St. Patrick’s Day, the full of the moon, or any other random date which you hold significant  to set and accomplish goals.

The Japanese use the word Kaizen, also known as “Good Change”, to describe making small, continuous changes.  MindTools, one of my favorite business information sites, has a  very accessible description of this approach, if you are unfamiliar with Kaizen or just want to check it’s pronunciation. 

Kaizen is a powerful concept … and ever so much easier to execute than to lose significant weight safely and permanently or stop over-indulging in all things chocolate. 

CAVEATS: 

1)  Do what you have to do when you have to do it.

Some things are legitimately connected to year ends and beginnings, such as financial reports, or REQUIRED (not just desired or historic) reports.  If you have to do it at year-end, do it at year-end.

However, many things we engage in have no less value in July than in December.   Much of our annual reinvention fits here.    

Learn to tell the difference between what you must do and what you are simply  choosing to do at a specific time for a specific reason.

2)  If you scored an honest 1 or 2 on the survey, got for it.

If you are one of the 8% or less who can use the start of a new year as a motivator for positive change, you are already ahead of me.  If you take my little survey above first (honestly) and the results support this, I bow to your superior will and wish you Godspeed … Continue to do what already works for you and have at those resolutions:)

3) My comments do not suggest you do not make goals.

Goals are essential to drive behavior and to increase the possibility that you will do what you want to do, in the best way, within the necessary time frame.  You just do not have to wait until the New Year or any other date to plan, act, change, and evaluate.  You can and should engage in planning every day on various levels.

Bonus:  A recent article reinforces my thinking here, at least when it comes to exercise.

Wondering what the New Year will bring, but ready to “muddle through”in the Heartland ….

John

Not Fitting Under the Christmas Tree …


I have had extra time to think, while unable to do my usual things this week.  One thing that I indulged myself over was thinking about Christmas presents I would like to receive that would not fit under the Christmas tree.

Yeah, I mentioned world peace, an end to exclusion, intolerance, hatred, hunger, and all the rest.  However, past those lofty desires, I am left with only one thing on the list, but I do expand on that one desire a bit:

Old HouseAn old farmhouse far enough back off the main road to feel alone, but not so far that you feel lonely …

White sides, with dark blue or dark green trim on everything.

Worn, but in a good way … like an old and familiar coat, that slips easily on, provides comfort and warmth, without sharp edges.

Two stories minimum, with three preferably … the taller, the better.

Lots of windows, in a climate that was friendly to light and did not promote leaking air.

A second floor with a patio and enough space for four or five to sit comfortably close and watch the world go by.

Sleeping space for up to 16 people at a time, for family, friends, and colleagues to visit the quietness.

Close to or overlooking a body of water, ideally salt water, with a view of rippling waves for eternal delight.

Near a large town or small city, but not so close that I am tempted to visit there every day … once a week would be suffiicent to resupply and enjoy the movement of the town.

Pipes that creak every now and then to remind you of their existence and make the house seem alive.

There would be cats …

Gables and other architectural oddities … no predominant style, just a jumble of different perspectives on solid and eye-catching architecture.

Trees … the type that look scary in winter, but lush when in bloom during the spring.

A porch … a very long porch, with ample seating for 10 to 12 people, with railings and a swing … at both ends.

Perched on a small hill or far enough up a mountain to maintain a  soul-soothing view of the previously-mentioned body of water.

A somewhat well-kept lawn, but not manicured or completely tamed, with a variety of greens, yellows, reds, and whatever other colors Nature provides.

Southern exposure, to take full advantage of all those windows and all those sitting places.

Solid and dependable Internet coverage to maintain contact with people, events, and the world (sorry, but this is like needing drinking water for me.)

Well, that’s my big wish for the Christmas season …

No chance I will actually get this one, but I did learn a few things about what is in my heart, as I engaged in this little whimsy, while recovering from several physical issues.

When you let yourself dream, you are not always just fiddling away time.  As I continued to let thoughts pour out of me, I noticed some things popping out, which I need to consider more seriously for the future.

1)  I apparently desire to “return to the land”, not as a farmer, but I bet I could write up a storm in the environment above.

2)  I like the variety of nature and the changing seasons.

3)  I do not need the hustle and bustle of the city. 

4)  I have room for visitors, which means I do not wish a solitary life.

5)  Being away from the finer things of civilization (Internet excepted) is attractive to me.

I am still pondering, so additional insights might be forthcoming.  In the meanwhile, I have a question for you to consider:

“What’s your Christmas present?  You know, the one that won’t fit under the tree.”

Letting myself dream a little more during the hurry, scurry, and blurry of the season in the Heartland ….

John

One Little Acorn …


Acorn Eating SquirrelThe creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

… of course, you still have to plant and nurture that acorn for quite a while.

What acorns are you holding right now?

What might they grow into being?

What do you need to do to make this happen?

Reviewing my small collection of nuts and dreams, and planning hard in the Heartland ….

John